“How do I create clothes? I put my ideas on paper, which are later made up in toile and revised by me, if necessary. My best ideas come in the morning, when I wake up — and in absolutely quiet surroundings. My idea is ‘woman’ in general, and a collection must fit all types.”

— Yves Saint Laurent, 1957

“The house is very small and we don’t want to sell any more than we are capable of producing. Eighty-four of the 150 people are seamstresses. A couture house nowadays should be run that way.”

— Pierre Berge, 1962

“Art is a very big word for couture. It’s a metier like any other, but a poetic metier.”

— Saint Laurent, 1963

“I don’t think that the round woman is the modern woman. The woman today has bones — she is nervous. The woman of the 19th century was round. C’est fini the round. It is for Renoir.”

— Saint Laurent, 1966

“One thing you can be sure of, I’ll not finish my career doing couture as I’m doing it now.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“Real fashion today comes from the young people manning the streets — those between 30 and 35. The difference between day and evening clothes is outdated. The new fashion freedom permits people to be as they are or as they want to be+to go to dinner, for instance, as they were in the morning in black jersey, or anything else. My new collection is based on the idea of the suit — the practical, modern, easy world of the suit. Not the suit as we’ve known it…a suit that will look different with a skirt or pants. And pants with coats are part of our life.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“So they have crowned me king. Look what happened to all the other kings in France.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“Recent political events, the reaction of young people to fashion and the way of life today make the haute couture a relic of the past. I do not want to find myself in the past+or in a stronghold cut off from everything.

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“First nights at the theater…life on a yacht — all things like that belong to a society that no longer means anything…a society that is no longer a la mode. The Social Ladies are no longer significant.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“I have always done black. I don’t do ‘message’ couture.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“The big difference between couture and rtw is not design. It is the fabrics, the handwork and the fittings. The act of creation is the same.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“In the future, men and women will dress more and more alike. I want to create clothes for women like men’s clothes.”

— Saint Laurent, 1968

“With the world going through so much pain, the young generation gathers strength from each other and the more they resemble each other, the stronger they get.”

— Berge, 1968

“It’s demode to expect to see a revolution each time+each collection.”

— Saint Laurent, 1969

“The drama is that there are so many stupid rich people. Luxury — so few know how to use it and make it respectable.”

— Saint Laurent, 1970

“I want to see elegant women…women aware that they are women. Finished are the hippie things…all those bits of folklore…those scarves. The street is terrifying now. Horrible.”

— Saint Laurent, 1970

“Look at all that advertising — you must buy these shoes to go with this bag to go with that belt. Such advertising takes people for imbeciles. The results? The young don’t shop in the big stores anymore.”

— Saint Laurent, 1970

“I did not think that in a profession as free as fashion that one could meet so many people so narrow-minded and reactionary, petty people paralyzed by taboos. But I am also very stimulated by this scandal because I know that which shocks is new.”

— Saint Laurent, February 1971, reaction to universally scathing reviews of his spring couture collection

“Women look like they’ve been working on the railroad too long.”

— Saint Laurent, 1971

“In spite of what people say, I believe I will save the couture and not kill it by making it return to its original meaning, which is privacy, rarity and quietness.”

— Saint Laurent, 1971

“I adore rtw. It’s alive, it’s quick, it’s daring. The challenge is to make a raincoat that looks just as good on a girl of 15 as on a woman of 60.”

— Saint Laurent, 1971

“For the first time, I feel liberated. I began to feel boxed in. In the couture, you strive for one put-together look. But women don’t want that studied look today.”

— Saint Laurent, 1971

“No blueprint. This is not a field in which you can chart a program. Who can predict the results of fashions?”

— Berge, 1972, declining to give a sales projection

“Pants are simply not important anymore. There are only jeans today.”

— Saint Laurent, 1976

“Maybe I am ill, but are you so well every day of the year?”

— Saint Laurent, 1977, denying published reports that he was too ill to design his own collection

“It’s the same in fashion as in everything else in life. There’s not much difference in selling clothes or books or even a politician selling ideas.”

— Berge, 1978

“I have said before that the most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“I am convinced that Yves resolved a wide social problem with Rive Gauche [rtw]. He took fashion in a new direction and his success has been absolutely unique.

“Yves has changed — in the same measure that Chanel did, in a different way — the appearance of the streets.”

— Berge, 1978

“There is a feeling of frustration in fashion with things that only last a season and die. I try, as I advance, to make something that will last, that will be passed from one generation to another.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“It’s on my shoulders that the work hangs. After all, I couldn’t do it without the house, the ateliers. The ateliers are vital. But it is my responsibility to create. And working on a collection, I imagine what it must be like for a writer trying to write a novel, or a director making a film….The more ideas you have, the worse it is.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“Now that I’ve reached maturity, at 42, in my work, it’s the work that possesses me.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“Humor is the vital element. My message is humor combined with total refinement.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“For two or three years, I have dreamed of opening a department store called Yves Saint Laurent where everything I make is sold together. And I would design the building, the interior, the furnishings for the store, the logos, everything. That’s the future.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“For me, ‘Porgy and Bess’ is the epitome of the American spirit. It is modern, sexy, amusing and full of gaiety.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978, after creating the “Broadway Suit” collection

I am not a young lion now, I am an old lion. Perhaps a fox.”

— Saint Laurent, 1980

“The one thing I lack in my life is to live. In my youth, I never discovered life. Life is to be lived when one is young, and truly, I’ve never lived.”

— Saint Laurent, 1978

“I’m bored — and angry — with people who just design clothes for the runway. It’s a massive deception, and one a lot of people have fallen for. Some of the Paris designers are doing two collections each season — one for the runway and another for the showroom. I think that belittles the idea of fashion and soils everyone in a bizarre, unamusing joke.”

— Saint Laurent, 1979

“One can’t work in fashion for self-amusement or take it lightly….Fashion is a profession that devours a man….

“When you’re young, it’s more amusing to work in fashion. You can be carefree. You also think you know your work better than you actually do. There is also a moment when you discover you don’t even know who you are.”

— Saint Laurent, 1980

“Some people say New York is not really American but another little country. How untrue. New York is the most American of all. It is big, powerful, busy, varied, unbelievably energetic and so exciting.”

— Saint Laurent, 1980

“I remember when trousers were shaped like trumpets [bell-bottoms]. Perhaps, it was amusing at the time as a fashion, but styles like this are gimmicks, they are not real and cannot last. Classics continue all the time because they have style, not ‘fashion.”‘

— Saint Laurent, 1981

“My Paris is refinement, and there is no world that is refined that is not also melancholy.”

— Saint Laurent, 1983

“The only problem is that Yves keeps wanting to hit the red ball. He’s just too aesthetic.”

— Berge, 1983, talking about learning to play billiards with Saint Laurent

“People think decadence is debauched. Decadence is simply something very beautiful that is dying. It’s a beautiful flower that is dying, and sometimes you have to wait a very long time for another flower to come along.”

— Saint Laurent, 1986

“We haven’t had as aggressive a policy in the U.S. as we should have. We are planning to close certain outlets we never should have opened in the first place. That was our mistake. The policy of marking down clothes is a bad one….I want to work with people who have a real addiction to Saint Laurent.”

— Pierre Berge, 1986, on the closing of the YSL shop at Bergdorf Goodman

“It may not succeed, but it will have an effect.”

— Saint Laurent, describing his 1986 fall couture collection.

“What a woman needs is a black turtleneck sweater, a straight skirt and a man to love her.”

— Saint Laurent, 1989

“It never works when another designer takes over in couture. It’s the heart and soul of a maison, so I find it impudent and disgusting to replace people after they have gone….If someone accepts to work for another house, that means they don’t have enough talent to work under their own name, otherwise they’d find money and open their own maison.”

— Pierre Berge, 1990

“I’ve worked all my life to found a fashion house worthy of France. I did so without concession or compromise.”

— Saint Laurent, 1993, upon selling the house to Sanofi

“I’m happy to be copied, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job well.”

— Saint Laurent, 1998

“For me, this represents a great deal of emotion. I didn’t imagine it could be so spectacular. Can you imagine? Three hundred girls. I know I will never see a spectacle like this again. And we may never see France in the finals again, either.”

— Saint Laurent, 1998, upon dressing models for the closing ceremonies at the World Cup in Paris